The state legislature has approved a bill that would allow expansion of charter schools and strengthen their accountability.
Charter schools are supported by taxpayers but not regulated by districts. They typically use different curriculums from their public school counterparts. Currently, they are restricted in Missouri to St. Louis and Kansas City.
The bill would let charter schools be formed anywhere in the state in districts that are unaccredited or have been provisionally accredited for three straight years, and in districts in which the local school board sponsors them. It also adds new provisions to laws on charter school accountability.
Representative Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) says, “The bill allows for an annual review of all the charter school sponsors in the state, it also provides for consistent performance reviews and holds charter schools to the same standards with the annual performance review, including map tests, that our public schools have to meet.”
Opponents point out that some charter schools have performed worse than public schools in the same districts. Representative Tishaura Jones (D-St. Louis) sponsored an identical bill. She says in the case of the Imagine schools that were recently shut down by the State Board of Education, “We all know that Imagine schools have been the bottom feeders in the state in terms of performance.” She says original laws regarding accountability were weak, and this legislation will prevent more situations like that with the Imagine schools.
Representative Sara Lampe’s (D-Springfield) district includes the largest accredited school district in the state. She supports the accountability portion of the bill, but not the expansion part. “The state department has some guidelines for how (charter schools) can be better. This bill is not needed for that to happen. The only thing that this bill is needed for is to create an opportunity for expansion of a business out into the state into your community to draw profit off your community and take away your local community school.”
Governor Jay Nixon called on the legislature to pass a charter schools accountability bill in his “State of the State” address in January.